Turkey’s ruling AKP divided over U.S. killing of Iran's Soleimani

The killing of  Iran's most powerful military commander, Gen, Qasem Soleimani, by a U.S. air strike, has highlighted fractions within Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and among pro-AKP pundits on regional rival Iran.

A number of AKP officials and names linked to the Islamist party have come out blasting the United States over the move while others have expressed their support for the killing of the 62-year-old, who spearheaded Iranian military operations in the Middle East as head of Iran's elite Quds Force until he was killed on Friday.

The Iranian Embassy in Turkey in a tweet on Saturday said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Iranian Gen. Soleimani a “martyr” while offering his condolences to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Turkey’s state-run TRT television however reported that Turkey’s strongman “did not use ‘martyr’’’ to describe Soleimani during a phone call between the two leaders.

Former AKP deputy Şamil Tayyar called the killing of the Iranian general a case of "chicken coming home to roost''.

"The death of Qasem Soleimani is a loss not only for Iran, but for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG),’’ Tayyar wrote on Twitter. "He was the greatest guardian of the PKK’’.

Pro-AKP journalist Fatih Tezcan lashed out at those mourning on behalf of Iran. 

“We are going to make up some belief that if Iran falls, so does Turkey and protect Iran, and Iran is going to protect [Bashar] Assad and the PKK in Syria and Iraq,’’ Tezcan said on Twitter. “Go and conduct your crypto pro-Iran support elsewhere’’.

Columnist with pro-government newspaper Yeni Şafak, İbrahim Karagül, called Soleimani a war criminal and murderer.

“He did in Syria what the United States did in Iran,’’ Karagül wrote on Twitter.

Former AKP supporter turned critic, author Ömer Turan, expressed his surprise at the number of Iran supporters within Turkey’s ruling party.

“If Iran falls, it is not Turkey but Israel that will too fall. And it’s not Iran that is going to fall but the Mollah regime dreaming of a Persian Empire that will fall. It turns out there are so many Iran supporters,’’  Turan said on Twitter, where he accused Soleimani of exporting the Mollah regime. 

The killing of the top Iranian military commander as well as the attack that accompanied it will trigger more dangerous instability in the region, according to AKP Spokesman Ömer Çelik said.

“These will be the detriment of the people of Iraq and the whole region,’’ Çelik wrote on Twitter.